The Thursday night contest between the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars is lining up to be a hairy affair.
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick went to bat for his bushy beard on Tuesday while Jacksonville counterpart Gardner Minshew II defended his mustache and threw in a little subtle jab at Fitzpatrick’s age.
Suddenly, this Florida showdown is more than just a nationally televised episode of “Minshew Mania.”
Fitzpatrick, 37, started the back-and-forth with his take on Minshew’s facial hair.
“The mustache versus the beard, I think the beard is a cooler look,” Fitzpatrick said, while adding a laugh. “I think guys that grow mustaches a lot of times have patchy sides for their beards, so they just stick with the mustache.”
The comment was naturally relayed to Minshew, and the 24-year-old added his retort.
“I’ll let (my mustache) speak for itself,” Minshew said. “I think I’ve shown I can grow a beard with no patchy sides.
“But, you know, I’m going to have respect for my elders, especially when they’re much, much elder.”
That feisty side is part of what has made Minshew a big favorite in Jacksonville in only his second NFL season. His stellar play doesn’t hurt, either.
Minshew has fired three touchdowns passes in each of the first two games for the Jaguars (1-1). He has completed 75.4 percent of his passes for 512 yards and six touchdowns while being intercepted twice.
The solid play has helped Jacksonville average 28.5 points. The Jaguars have been exceptional in the red zone with six touchdowns in seven opportunities.
That is the type of production a veteran like Fitzpatrick appreciates.
“I like watching him. I enjoy his playing style,” Fitzpatrick said of Minshew. “It looks like he’s out there having fun. It’s not easy to play quarterback in this league. It’s not easy to play as a young quarterback. He’s already had a lot of success. He’s had a great start to the season.”
Of course, Fitzpatrick is trying to keep from looking over his shoulder as Dolphins fans anticipate the beginning of the Tua Tagovailoa era.
Fitzpatrick did his part to keep the former Alabama star on the bench by passing for 328 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions on Sunday in a 31-28 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Fitzpatrick is focused on breaking down the Jaguars and looking to get Miami (0-2) in the win column.
“Well, for me as a quarterback, you look at some of that stuff and you look at tendencies, but if they do blitz, then we need to have an answer for it,” Fitzpatrick said. “I can’t sit here and rely on those things. We’ve got to have answers for everything.”
The Dolphins do need to find some answers on the defense side of the ball as they rank 30th in total defense (440.5 yards per game) and 29th against the run (164 yards per game).
The latter deficiency certainly will be tested by the Jaguars, who are ecstatic about the play of undrafted free agent running back James Robinson.
Robinson rushed for 4,444 yards and 44 touchdowns for FCS program Illinois State but wasn’t deemed worthy of being drafted by any of the NFL’s 32 teams. But his strong training camp performance helped prompt Jacksonville to part ways with Leonard Fournette, and Robinson’s 164 rushing yards are the most ever through the first two career games by a Jaguars back.
He rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries Sunday in a 33-30 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
“What you guys are seeing now is probably what I’ve been seeing all of camp,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said. “Just a real steady, good football player. If there’s something there, he’s going to find it. He’s not going to make mistakes and lose yardage for you, and he’ll try to keep the chains going. He’s a tough runner.”
The Dolphins likely will be trying to corral Robinson without cornerback Byron Jones (groin), who missed practice on Tuesday after being injured on Sunday. Four Miami players were limited at practice: safety Clayton Fejedelem (pectoral), cornerback Xavien Howard (knee), defensive end Shaq Lawson (hip) and receiver DeVante Parker (hamstring).
Sitting out practice for the Jaguars on Tuesday were center Brandon Linder (knee) and defensive back Brandon Watson (illness).
–Field Level Media